Organizing First Aid Supplies

claire_de_lunaJuly 18, 2007

I thought I had it. The first time, I tried storing the First Aid stuff in a basket in the hall closet. That worked for a little while, but I actually needed more categories, and the basket had turned into a dumping ground even though I sorted things into ziplocs so I could see where everything was. I think what didn't work for me is that I had to open and close all the bags in order to get to what was inside.

Then, I wanted to be able to take a First Aid kit with me on the road, so I put (most of) it into a lunch box with a water bottle (for cleaning). Well, I needed to get into it recently and it just wasn't working for me. It seemed I had to unload it periodically to find what I needed, and the amount of supplies had grown rather larger than I originally intended. (I had included things like chemical cold packs, a clean cotton dishtowel that could double as a sling, and basic First Aid instructions. It all seemed to make my kit double in bulk.

I went to Home Depot this afternoon and bought a tool bag with pockets inside and out, which had a wide mouth opening. (Think doctor's medical bag!) I also bought a clip-on flashlight that swivels two ways, so I could see inside the bag because the interior is dark. I put the most used items in the pockets on the outside, like bandaids, pain meds, cough and cold stuff, antibiotic creams, soap and hand sanitizers with tools like scissors, tweezers, lighter, needle, small pliers. Inside, the pockets have my thermometer, alcohol swabs, bandages, tape, q-tips, cotton pads, gloves, and everything else.

FINALLY! I can get to everything I need, and I can see it too. The best part is that I can grab it and go. I think this is actually going to work for me.

So, how do you store your First Aid so you can find and access everything when you need to?

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I break it up. Based on:
-how often we use it;
-which *room* we use it in.

For wounds, I have two boxes (about the size of a baby wipes box--one was a gift from someone on the forum). One is labeled "bandages and ointment"--it holds stuff for cuts and scrapes. The stuff I use most often.

The other is labeled "gauze and tape"--it's for the really BIG owies (rarely used, and so on the top shelf).

I keep the ice pack in a cabinet in the bathroom; ditto the Ace bandage (which I've never really used)

I have another smaller one labeled "teeth"--it contains the tooth first-aid stuff (Anbesol, and the wax you use if you break a tooth or a crown comes off), plus extra dental floss and the replacement heads for the elec. toothbrushes.

The thermometer sits by itself on a shelf (actually, there are thermometers in every night-stand drawer in the house, which are what WE use, but for company's sake, I put one in the medicine cabinet).

I don't have a travel first-aid kit. If anybody REALLY gets hurt, I'll go to a drugstore and get the stuff then. Or, I'll be visiting a friend, and I'll use ice from their freezer. I keep bandages and Tylenol in my totebag, and in my dopp kit. That's the most of what I think I'm going to need at the drop of a hat. Someday I'll wish I had a tweezer, but nobody has really died yet (she screamed bad enough, you'd have thought she WAS dying, but she wasn't; she was just 3).

I keep cough and cold stuff, plus Pepto-Bismol, in the kitchen, near the sink (the kids always want a "chaser" after that stuff, plus I need to rinse out the little cup and stick it in the DW--so why have it in the bathroom?) Ditto the aspirin (though actually, I have some in the bathroom, too)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 5:59PM
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I use my now-retired EMT crash bag, which is similar to what Claire got sorted out, basically a multi-pocketed and pockets-within-pockets bag with a zip around the top closure and a shoulder strap. I used to use a hard sided medic box, but I found the cordura one works better for me and it's easier to move around with it attached to me. Since I'm now longer an active EMT, I have over-packaged most of my stuff in plastic bags (not zips which can be a paint to get open) just to keep it fresh for the long term. We keep the bag in the downstairs, by the door, closet so it's always ready to grab and go.

Ice packs live permanently in the freezer.


    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 6:42PM
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I have the same problem. Recently was trying to update and consolidate several first aid kits and locations.

One thing that I think started happening was that I started to get first aid clutter from falling into the trap of being too prepared in too many locations(the tweezer, gauze, scissors, rubber glove thing). I think I will just take the chance. I just don't know that I should have to be prepared for major trauma in a car wreck. The things I need most in most sitations to just save a trip to a store, and especially at night, would be some kind of hand sanitizer and a simple bandaid--for modest cut & scrapes, etc--probably with ointment--and Tylenol or whatever. Actual medicine items I think of in the medicine drawer (cough & cold, etc).

If someone suffers a deep cut, you smash a T shirt on it and race to the ED.

I were going to another country then might think of specific problems common to that. Or wilderness hiking.

So, currently I'm thinking I need to simplify and unclutter rather than have more stuff or a better container for it.

But, I think that for common car travel where you have trunk space, to visit relatives, etc, and especially with kids, it can make sense to have this mobile supply kit as your actual supply kit. That way, you grab it rather than packing and unpacking stuff several times a year, and you can keep the types of meds you and your kids have actually used (and tolerate without gakking) , without having to go to W-M and buy another $20 worth and then have 3 bottles of everything on the go, and you don't have 3 first aid kits with expired or grungy looking stuff.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 7:23PM
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We have purchased first aide kits for each of the vehicles. They are very inclusive, yet fit easily in the mesh pockets on the back of the seats. My DH has another metal kit he keeps in the trunk for Scout trips. Each of the kids have a small wallet sized kit which they carry in their back pack or taped to their bike in the summer. Quick scrapes and skinned knees can be dealt with and they don't have to limp home bleeding. I keep a gallon of water in the back of the van during the summer for wash-ups if needed.

In the house, we have a larger box of bandaides in the kitchen. Other tapes and rolls are in a drawer in the bathroom, along with the antibiotic cream, etc.

I would encourage people to look into the prepared kits available. The storage system is compact and they really are complete with scissor, tweezers, etc. costs much less than if I purchased all of those items seperately and put together a kit.



    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 7:34PM
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See if I went on Scout trips, I'd have a different kind of kit. A really well-stocked one for travel.

I do like the small kit in each kid's backpack. My kids are never traveling alone; they are *always* w/ one of us. But that will change in the next year or two, as DD goes off to high school. So she should have a small backpack kit.

I'm thinking, bandages, foil packets of triple antibiotic ointment, a couple of wet wipes, nail clippers, aspirin if I think she can get away w/ it (illegal to have at school; got an apologetic call from the school nurse this year, who said it's stupid but those are the rules)

    Bookmark   July 18, 2007 at 11:16PM
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I have a fairly intensive first aid collection housed in a large tackle box. All the external compartments house often used items like antibiotic ointment, bandaids, thermometers, latex gloves, etc while the internal trays have the more specialized things. The bottom holds bottles of betadine, alcohol, peroxide, and so on. It started out as my pet emergency box but then evolved into an all species sort of thing. EVERYTHING is in there.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 7:14AM
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When I travel, I always pack a baggy with bandaids,a small scissors,and first aid antiseptic. You never know when you'll get a splinter or need a bandaid.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 7:33AM
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You all are great. In the past I've done some kind of version of everything you've talked about. Talley Sue, I like the idea of putting a thermometer in the medicine cabinet for company's sake. I've upgraded thermometers twice now, and it's good to know what I can do with the extra one. Now that I need glasses to read everything, I bought the digital one with the big dial that turns different colors according to your temperature. My mom has poor eyesight and she needed a thermometer, so this is what I got for her, and one for myself at the same time. I also keep pain meds in the cabinet with my vitamins so they're easy to grab when I need one.

Molly, it sounds like my kit is a lot like yours. (I also keep gel packs permanently in the freezer, as I've had occasion to use them more than I wish I need to. There's a cane I keep as well in my car for the same reason. Stairs get me the most, and some days it's good to have a little assist.) As you're a former EMT, I feel like I'm on the right track with my bag. (Thank you!) I also squeezed in a blood pressure cuff and knee wrap last night, so now I'm fully stocked. I really like that my bag has everything in it, yet it's totally portable.

Frankie, I have a little bit of the same issue in that I have a few small supplies in a ziplock for my car, one for each travel bag like Jannie's, along with a more detailed small kit in my emergency backpacks. My overflow stuff is back in that basket in the hallway, but the excess is pared way down and I can actually find what I need in there now, so that's improvement.

Gloria, I think it's a great idea to have something in each vehicle. DH actually bought a auto emergency bag for the car that has a First Aid kit as well. I know it has a few different items than the very small one I have in the glove box, and none of the stuff I seem to chronically suffer from, which is why I wanted a more portable First Aid kit for long trips or large family events. (First aid for the car includes a 30 SPF sunscreen.) I also know that heat kills a lot of things, so I'm not sure how viable the stuff that lives in the car would be after a while. What's nice about the First Aid bag is it also has things for bites, poison ivy, etc., along with eye cleaning and ear solutions, etc.

cearbhaill, a tackle box isn't a bad idea! (I'm surpised I hadn't actually tried this as a solution yet, since as you can see, I try a lot of different things.) It's good to know that's working for you and another option.

I managed to throw out a lot of expired stuff I didn't realize I had, so everything is now updated. I'm marking my calendar for this time next year to go through it all again, so I can do the same. I'm glad that's done!

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 12:57PM
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I also squeezed in a blood pressure cuff

I can't imagine needing to take anyone's blood pressure, ever. If they're that sick, they can go to a REAL doctor. And if it's a REAL emergency, I wouldn't know what to do anway.

A BP cuff would be clutter in my life. Maybe people w/ certain medical conditions need to take their own blood pressure, but I don't think the average home needs its own BP cuff.

If you have chronic situations (need to take your own BP, measure your blood sugar), or are prone to injuries (you have a weak ankle and could twist is easily, so you keep a cane in the trunk), you'll have specialized stuff.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 4:08PM
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Oh Talley Sue...I can see you haven't met my mother! Actually, I would agree with you, however, it's Better for me to keep a BP cuff on hand than have to drive her somewhere simply because she wants to know her blood pressure Right Now, all the while commenting on the drugstore equipment probably not being right. (Can you see me holding my head in my hands? Believe me, my blood pressure goes up just thinking about it. And, yes, I seem to have a lot of chronic situations that require some of the specialized stuff.) You know I rarely get into my First Aid kit, but on those occasions when I have to, it's helpful that it's there.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 4:59PM
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well, maybe you have "a certain medical condition"--namely, having your mother for a mother? LOL!

Tweezers, small scissors, etc--I put magnets on the back of the mirrored door of my medicine cabinet, and stick them up there!

Very handy.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2007 at 5:37PM
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As a former EMT the things I find most practical to have in my first aid kit for dealing with medium-sized events are:


Latex surgical gloves, at least a dozen pairs, plus a pair of Rubbermaid gloves. These give me quick universal infection protection (surgical gloves) along with something (dishwashing gloves) to grab my pet with if it has been in a fight with an animal (rabies risk to me from wet saliva on my pet). The dishwashing gloves can also be put on over, or under, the surgical ones if you happen upon something really gross and rugged.

Plastic one-way airways to giving rescue breathing/CPR without so much risk of human-to-human pathogens (AIDS and Hep.)

Some thick sterile gauze pads of various sizes for fast wound dressing and cushioning or pressure dressing when it's beyond bandaids, but you still want to cover it while you head off to seek professional aid.

A couple of rolls of Kling for securing the above, no finesse required as it (usually) wants to stick to itself.

Roll of adhesive tape (or duct tape) for when the Kling won't do what you want.

Two cotton triangular bandages for hitching larger things together and/or making a sling. A couple of large, baby safety pins should be attached to the bandages.

Scissors (big clunky offset jobs). (These are freqently pulled out and used for other things by some person who ought to know better ....i.e. me.)

Pen (sharpie) and index cards

Cheap big watch since I don't wear one regularly.

For personal first aid, of course, wound cleanser (I use a veterinary product for all species), tweezers, small plastic magnifying lens, and bandaids.

And of course, up here in Lyme country, tick removal devices. The best, by far, are the O'Tom lever-forks. They'll pull everything from teeny deer tick nymphs to engorged dog ticks, and once you have the twisting thing down, they rarely leave any tick part behind. Since I get dozens of bites every year, I've tried everything and these are the best of the lot.



    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 2:54AM
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TS, I love the idea of using a magnet on the back of the medicine cabinet door for that stuff. Brilliant!

Molly, Thanks for your list; it's very helpful. As far as the big gauze bandages go, I included a few prewrapped feminine pads (yes, I know), since they can be used the same way. (Or, do double duty in a pinch!) I have the sharpie, just not the index cards (duh), and dishwashing gloves are an excellent idea. I hate to admit that I don't know what an O'Tom lever fork is...could you enlighten me?

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 11:31AM
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I did a search on "o'tom" plus "tick removal" and found lots of U.K. sites, some international ones, and a few U.S. references.

The name of the product is "Tick Twister"; I saw it on a Petco website; maybe they have it in the stores?

Here is a link that might be useful: $3 plus shipping, from

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 12:10PM
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I have a first aid kit for my car, and now I'm working on one for school. I guess all I really need for class is bandaids, clean bandages, and burn ointment. I also have some tylenol for my heart and some floss. School already provides a lot of safety equipment.

Has anybody tried peanut butter for ticks? I heard that if you cover a tick with peanut butter it suffocates and falls off your skin.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 3:38PM
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Sanitary napkins have their off-label uses (as long as they aren't treated with any deodorant), but many are no longer thick wads of gauze as they used to be. They tend to have various miracle gels (no-leaks) inside which would limit their use a bit in some circumstances.

Half a dozen thick, and sterile, surgical toppers or other thick, large gauze pads would be more useful since they can be unfolded somewhat to cover a larger area if necesary. I'd go for at least 4 X 6 size. Store them in your kit, individually overwrapped in plastic bags. The thing with these big pads is they are useful when you come upon a situation when you just need to slap something sturdy over a major boo-boo, and perhaps apply a bit pressure to slow things down. In this type of situation (and you'll know it if you ever comes across it), you actually can't wait for better equipped/ more experienced personnel to show up - something's gotta happen right then. Of course you could pull off your shirt and use that but it's more comforting if you have a nice big, clean, gauze pad and you get to keep keep your shirt on which saves emabarassment when somebody shows up and takes pictures from their cell phone to get on the news. And nobody is wearing petticoats anymore from which to rip some handy bandages.

They can also be used where thinner pads might do the trick, but not vice versa.

And yes, Talley-Sue, that's the right tick removing thing on Amazon (aside from the sick-making fact of finding it in the kitchen and dining section -eeeeew - and seeing them offered new and used - double eeeew ). The thing is they are less successful when used as levers than when used in a twisting motion, slowly but steadily. And then you can have fun squashing the tick and treating the area with straight hydrogen peroxide.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 3:47PM
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ointment isn't good for burns:

From the University of Phoenix:

"Cool a burn with water. Do what you must to get cool water on the burn as soon as you can. .... Put cool, water-soaked cloths on the burn. If possible, avoid icy cold water and ice cubes. Such measures could cause further damage to burned skin....Never apply ointment, grease or butter to the burned area. Applying such products, actually confine the heat of the burn to the skin and do not allow the damaged area to cool. In essence, the skin continues to "simmer." After the initial trauma of the burn and after it has had sufficient time to cool, it would then be appropriate to put an ointment on the burn. Ointments help prevent infection."

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 4:22PM
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oops: that's from the City of Phoenix's website.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 4:23PM
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Surfergirl, I hadn't actually heard that about peanut butter and ticks. The only problem I can see with it is my dog would be so busy trying to lick herself, it might not stay on very long!

Thanks for the tick remover into, TS and Molly. I'll look for that next time I'm in a Petco. I used to have a dog that would come home covered in 100 ticks, and I got rather jaded about just pulling them off. (Years ago. Of course that was then, and this is now!)

I picked up dishwashing gloves today, two sizes, and some over the counter medication to replace the stuff that had expired. I think I'm in good shape. Now...let's just hope I never need a lot of this stuff.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 6:10PM
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The problem I have with the peanut butter approach to ticks is that in an endemic Lyme area you really want them off you as fast as possible. The longer they're on, the higher the risk of transmission of the little buggies. We're in such a hot area most households have had Lyme disease. My poor DH had it in his spine fluid and had to have IV antibiotics from an indwelling PIC line for a month a few years ago.

What I like about the little OTom tick levers is that they don't squeeze the tick during removal which, would again increase your risk a bit by squeezing the contents of the tick's mouth and stomach into you during removal. Yuck-o.

BTW, though it's not commonly known even though it's the accepted practice, if you are bitten by a tick of a Lyme-transmitting species, in a proven Lyme area and if the tick has been on for more than 18-hours then you should ask your doc for a scrip for 200mg Doxycycline as a single dose within a day or so of the bite. This is apparently an excellent preventive Rx. But the best tactic is a full-body inspection at least once a day and never putting clothes that you have worn in a tick area back on until they have been washed. When they are particularly bad I change completely twice a day, or more. Also we have a firm family rule: no sitting on beds or soft furniture in field clothes; when you come in, you must change out of your outdoor clothes as soon as possible.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2007 at 9:57PM
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I don't think you can effectively suffocate a tick; it is busy engorging with blood that has lots of oxygen. You want it OFF ASAP.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2007 at 4:21PM
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Thanks for helping me organize my first aid kit properly. I found a little case like what lifeguards wear to the beach that I can store some supplies and take to school with me and keep in my bag. I'm glad we don't have any ticks here. I read that peanut butter thing in a book a long time ago, but I didn't know if it was true or not.

    Bookmark   July 27, 2007 at 2:48AM
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Just a little follow-up in case anyone might be interested. I've been coughing a lot (allergies) and have a sore throat as well. When I went to the bag holding my stuff, I was able to grab my throat lozenges in under 3 seconds. I would have spent at least 3 minutes digging for them before (maybe much more) so this system is working beautifully for me. yay!

    Bookmark   August 4, 2007 at 3:06AM
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Talley Sue, you have given me so many doog ideas though the years! You too, Claire. Anyway, I have a clear bag with shoe pockets hanging on the inside of the bathrom clset door-- it hooks over the door) and each pocket holds first aid supplies and medicines, and the whole closet had a slide lock at the top to keep out any kids who are too little. It's nice b/c it is so easy to find everything and it's kind of in rows, I love it!

    Bookmark   August 6, 2007 at 4:03PM
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